Starting your baby on finger foods can feel a little scary, but it can also be so much fun! Finger foods give your little one a chance to take some control over their own eating. They can feed themselves, choose which foods they want to have from the assortment you provide and it’s the ideal opportunity for messy play too! I always tried to see weaning as ‘messy play’- babies can learn so much from touching, dropping, squishing and then eating a little too.
Your little one can start on finger foods from 6 months. This is the normal time to start weaning which means you can start offering finger foods straight away. However these need to be soft, squidgeable and about the size of an adult finger.
When you start on finger foods it’s normal to worry if your little one will manage them safely. It can be common for babies to gag on food, and this process is designed to bring the food further forward in the baby’s mouth so they can chew it more thoroughly. This is different to choking. In gagging, the food will come straight back up as your baby’s gag reflex is actually farther forward in their mouth until around 1 year of age. This gag reflex is a great natural safety net so there is less chance of large pieces of food being swallowed. It is important to offer foods that are a soft enough texture and cut up so they are not a choking hazard. Proper choking is very rare, however it is very important to learn what to do in case it does happen; consider a baby first aid course and always seek help if you have any concerns.
You should provide your little one with food that is easy to bite, fairly soft (you want to be able to squidge between your thumb and finger) but also easy to grasp. Often softer foods can be slippery leading to them shooting out of your little ones hands- a fun game but frustrating too! You can roll slippery food in seeds to give them grip or try leaving the skin on foods such as avocado and mango. The food you provide should be roughly the shape and size of an adult finger. As your little one progresses you can offer firmer food, but make sure you finely cut up foods such as cherry tomatoes and grapes and remove the skin from foods such as sausages.
Sometimes finger foods are just more convenient, and that’s absolutely fine. You may prefer a baby led weaning approach, or your little one might insist on feeding themselves. Either way, just keep offering them a range of nutritious foods and balanced meals.
-Written by For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew.